After living in houses for the past 15 years and spending 18 COVID months at our second home in Prince Edward County, Brendan and I recently moved into a condo in the St Lawrence Market area. I’m pleased to report…we’ve fallen deeply in ❤️❤️ with condo life.
Making the move from a house to a condo can be daunting – here are 14 important things to know before you make the move.
1. You’ll love the garbage chute
Every day is garbage day in a condo and the convenience of being able to toss your garbage and recyclables whenever you want can’t be overstated. No more fighting with raccoons, no more stinky green bins, no more rushing out the door to get the garbage out as you hear the garbage truck next door. Seriously – condo residents don’t brag enough about the wonders of their garbage chutes.
2. There’ll be some noise
Our condo faces south-west over the Gardiner…and the train tracks….so while there is the hum of a vibrant city beneath us, the sound-proofing inside the unit is surprisingly good. Our condo is located away from the elevators and at the end of the hall, so we have yet to hear our neighbours (though in fairness, they did hear us having house-warming drinks with friends on the balcony at 1 AM, sorry!). We didn’t move to the heart of downtown for peace and quiet, but if that’s important to you, make sure to do your due diligence about the inside and outside noises.
3. Make a plan for your ‘stuff’
If you’re moving from a house to a condo in Toronto, you’re likely moving to a smaller space. Purge before you move – trust me, your stuff won’t all fit in your new condo (and do you really need 12 white, 12 red and 12 champagne glasses? True story.) Resist the urge to just move your existing furniture into your new condo – smaller-scaled furniture (ideally with built-in storage) will look and feel a lot better. And don’t forget to make optimal use of your storage locker – it’s great for storing off-season clothes, sporting equipment, cherished memories you can’t part with and holiday decorations.
Read: Condo Storage Ideas (opens in new tab)
4. Invest in professional closet organizers
A well-designed closet will allow you to optimize the space you have and live like Marie Kondo. Built-in closet organizers don’t come cheap, but they do add value to your condo when it comes time to sell.
Read: Konmarie Your Life (opens in new tab)
5. Your Concierge will become indispensable
Imagine not having to worry about porch pirates stealing your Amazon purchases; imagine never having to trek halfway across the city to pick up that Fedex package again (I swear I was home when they came!). Signing for packages is just one of the many ways your concierge will help make your life easier. Think of them as your new best friend – and remember to treat them that way. Well-run condo buildings have well-enforced rules, so having the concierge on your side is really helpful when you need to beg forgiveness for a late furniture delivery that doesn’t line up with your elevator booking.
6. Be ready for fire alarms
On day 2 of our new condo life, the fire alarm went off. Brendan, having never lived in a condo before, instantly hopped out of bed, frantically put on a pair of pants, grabbed his keys and cell phone and ran to the door. It was adorable. And altogether unnecessary.
False fire alarms are a fact of condo living…but rest assured that in most towers, your concierge will communicate what’s happening over the loudspeaker and guide you through any evacuations if deemed necessary. You won’t have to tackle the stairs every time there’s an alarm.
7. Embrace your new community
If you’re new to the city or looking to make friends, condos are great social hubs for the residents. Whether you get to know others at the gym or while hanging poolside or attend social events in your condo, there are plenty of opportunities to get to know your neighbours. Many buildings have private Facebook pages, and if you’re lucky like us, it’ll be a positive and supportive community where you can ask questions, trade household items and get neighbourhood recommendations.
9. Expect lower utility bills
You aren’t just heating or cooling a smaller space – you can thank your condo neighbours to the left, right, above and below for helping to keep you insulated and lowering your utility bills.
10. Freedom to come and go as you please
When you own a condo, it’s easier to just close the door and walk away if you’re travelling or spending time at a second home or cottage. With a condo, you don’t have to worry about your overgrown lawn or overflowing mailbox signalling that your house is vacant and a leaky roof and burst water pipes are (usually) someone else’s responsibility in a condo. (Note that most insurance companies will require you to have someone check on a vacant property periodically, whether it’s a house or a condo).
11. Use the amenities
After months of covid-related lockdowns, most Toronto condos have opened back up their amenities, with new reservation systems and rules to help control capacity. It’s hard to beat the convenience of having a gym in your building and shared rooftop gardens and outdoor spaces are a great way to spend the summer months (especially if you aren’t ready for restaurant patios yet). And if you’re lucky enough to have a pool? Enjoy! If you owned a house, you’d be waiting up to 2 years for a pool install date and would have to spend $50-100K+.
12. Enjoy (almost) maintenance-free living
One of the best parts about condo-living is that you usually only own what’s inside the drywall – meaning that plumbing, electrical, roofing and the other unsexy stuff is the responsibility of the condo corporation. That doesn’t mean it’s free – part of your monthly condo fees goes towards the reserve fund that pays for the big upgrades and fixes. But it’s nice not to have to worry about it.
13. Condo living is more affordable
It’s not just more affordable to buy a condo than a house in Toronto – expect lower ongoing expenses too. Water, sewage and garbage costs are part of your monthly condo maintenance fees – and they may include utilities and cable too. You’ll pay less for insurance, repairs and renovations, utilities and commuting (if you work downtown). You can read more about what’s included in maintenance fees here.
14. Enjoy the view – and your new neighbourhood
It’s no secret that Toronto’s best neighbourhoods are home to most of the city’s condos…the best of the city is quite literally at your doorstep. I can’t begin to explain the excitement of having everything I need within a 10-minute walk: groceries, a drugstore (in our building!), dry cleaning, shops, craft breweries, restaurants, parks, shops, cafes, and in our case, the St Lawrence Market. And when I look out the window? I’ve got Lake Ontario, the CN Tower and the city’s skyline.